Saturday, November 23, 2013

On the Loss of an Illusion

The amount that I've blogged this fall is an example of the kind of mental energy I've had this year so far. Often I'd sit down to write and not be able to think of, well, anything. Thankfully, I have (for the most part) accepted that it's OK not to blog as regularly right now. But, I've had a more difficult time accepting that it's OK to be in a mental funk in general and not know why. 

See, I like to know what's going on; I like to analyze and name and explain things, especially as they pertain to my own emotional state. But this fall, explanations (much less solutions) have evaded me. Every time I felt I'd found "the reason" things weren't clicking or "why" I've felt less awesome this semester, I'd address it; and things would be better for about, oh, 48 hours. Then I'd be right back where I was-- swimming in an ocean of 'blah' (and sometimes 'wahh')-- with no rescue boat in sight. 

For this "Type A" (and "Straight A's," thank you very much!) this has not been a pleasant experience. To be less than 110% is bad enough for a perfectionist; but then to not even be able to figure out why or how to "fix it" is pretty much like water-boarding. See, that's what perfectionists do-- they figure out what the problem is and they fix it. They take control. They feel a sense of accomplishment. They pat themselves on the back for being able to handle even their own weakness and limitations. That's why I laughed out loud when a certain book exposed this in me: 

"Either way, it is easier for us to handle an illness when it has a clear name and a precise cause...we hate the feelings that come with unfixable and uncontrollable moments. We do not know how to do a day with unfixed feelings, so we flail about and knock the dishes off their counters instead. At least we are exerting our power, we justify. We feel like we are doing something." 

By God's grace, I haven't broken any dishes this semester (at least, not on purpose). But I've definitely flailed about in anger at "unfixable and uncontrollable feelings." As I reflect, however, I realize this is exactly what I prayed for this year-- a greater realization that I am not, in fact, in control. That my sense of accomplishment is in many ways an illusion, a game I play of pretending to be God. And this year, I haven't been able to pat myself on the back for fixing my mom's cancer, or even for being able to adequately provide for my family in need. I haven't been able to pat myself on the back for securing my own future beyond seminary, because it turns out that I don't get to hire myself. I haven't been able to even pat myself on the back for maintaining emotional stability or mental stamina in a difficult season, because frankly, that stuff has been mysteriously absent too. 

The point? The point is that this year I've lost "control" over big things-- like the lives of my family members and my future-- AND little things-- like my own ability to think creatively for a paper or feel like a sane human being. And after about three months of seeing that as the problem and desperately reaching to regain the "control" I felt last year, a lightbulb came on: maybe backward (to a false sense of control) isn't the direction I should be longing to go. Maybe instead I could thank the Lord for this reality check and practice doing what I was created to do: depend on Him. 

I am a creature. I'm not sovereign-- over the cosmos, the outcome or behavior of others, or even my own life. And in a "perfect" world (you know, my favorite-- perfect) this would still be the case. I was created to delight in dependence on the One who created me and who is sovereign, not to try to supplant Him. Because even in a perfect world, if I tried to take His job, I would utterly fail at it. 

So practically, what does it look like to accept reality? It doesn't mean giving up, not trying, or not still looking forward to the return of mental energy. It just means that in the moments (or months) of unfixable feelings, putting my hope in Him to sustain me rather than in trying to figure it all out and make it go away. It means not loading my mom's cancer, my teachers' expectations, or myself onto my own shoulders and instead, embracing the fact that I've been hoisted onto Another's shoulders-- the Man who carried my perfectionism to the Cross. It means rejoicing in the truth that I don't have to be able to explain what's going on with me right now; I don't have to know because He knows, and He is trustworthy. And I don't have to know exactly how to "fix me" because even in seasons in of cancer, change, and the loss of control, He is able to save to the uttermost all who draw near to God through Him. 

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